Rembrandt's work, characterised by diversity of subjects, is distinguished from that of his contemporaries by his inventiveness and the "rowe manier" [rough manner] of his style.
This small-scale early work is an excellent example of Rembrandt's special sense for his material. Here, unusually, he chose a copperplate as picture support, primed with gold leaf to achieve a luminous quality. Many coats of varnish, with the occasional white heightening, make the thin, wrinkled skin of the hands appear almost glassy. By contrast, the wizened, almost toothless face seems as though formed from paint, like the surface of the hood, of madder lake.
The model was presumably Rembrandt's mother, Cornelia N. Willemsdochter van Zuytbroek. The picture is not, however, a portrait of the woman, but a tronie (Dutch: face/head).